Daycare week soldiers on with another entry, this time exploring the work/life imbalance working full-time and using childcare can present. If you missed it, we shared some of the positives HERE, some of the negatives HERE, and a little daycare nightmare story HERE. We move forward with my brief thoughts on the difficult line we navigate as full-time ‘professionals’ while juggling the demands of parenthood. I often dream about forgoing the work side of work/life balance and spending each and every moment with my girls for the next 25 years; but then my toddler will throw a raging fit on the floor of the grocery store and I’ll start dreaming about the reverse. The moral of work/life balance, I reluctantly admit, is that fulfillment in one area often precedes the other. It’s more difficult to be present and fulfilled as a parent when discontented at work.
Whether you’re a single parent or a dual-income family (like mine), you recognize that your workday and your personal day bleed together into a sprawling 16-18 hour mess. Getting the kids fed, dressed, and hauled to school usually has my stress level teetering just in time to walk into whatever awaits me at my job. As the workday winds down and I scramble to complete, the evening rush patiently resides outside my cubicle. As I discussed with the negatives of daycare, an 8-5 job resembles hours more like 6:45 am – 6:15 pm. One of the best ways to handle the madness, and something I fail at regularly, is to recapture those severed moments with my girls before work and immediately after. We typically wake up early to make Eliza breakfast; we could pass on this as the daycare provides food, but cooking in the morning allows either my wife and I an extra bonding session with our oldest. My wife has song routines for the commute to and from daycare as we both do our best not to forfeit that time with our girls just because we’re running behind or stressed.
When I look at this arrangement career-wise, it can definitely be difficult sometimes to exceed expectations at work while capturing the most time with children. There are times when leaving by 5:00 or 5:15 is an immense strain at work and I feel guilty for projects left behind and unfinished work. Going the extra mile in a career usually has to be shoveled into extra work at home in the evenings or on weekends. It’s never easy, but my wife and I do our best to stagger drop-offs and accommodate each other’s schedules to ensure we can meet the demands of both our employers and our children.
Another major challenge in committing professionally while raising children is the unexpected occurrences that happen at the worst times. Daycares are basically petri dishes of slime and bacteria, so if a virus exists, my daughter will have it every few months. Again, this is a balancing act for both my wife and I as we manage PTO to accommodate the fevers, the vomiting, and all the good stuff the daycare provides. Before kids, I prided myself on plowing through sickness and never taking sick days; as a parent, I’m helpless. Daycare forces kids home to prevent spreading the germs, which makes sense, but is never convenient. It’s not always sickness either; last year we had in-service days to worry about, a snow, and another day where the daycare was literally shut down for the weather being too cold. Sorry boss!
A stress-free path of parenting simply does not exist, whether you’re using daycare or not. It’s really about a strong sense of self-awareness adapting to the circumstances and managing the balance based on your intuition. Are there times when my girls hold me back at work? Absolutely. Does my work occasionally hamper my time with my daughters? Indeed. All we have left to do is to slow down, keep inventory of both our actions and feelings, and do our best to adjust accordingly. Ultimately, I know that I will only ever succeed professionally because my girls (wife included) are my driving motivation; my time at work, even when limited, is more focused knowing that I support a beautiful wife and two bundles of mostly joy (I say mostly because my toddler crawled under the dinner table tonight to poop…no way she’s 100% joy).